Does anybody remember which particularly prominent political pundit went far out his way to trumpet the idea that the basic unit of political legitimacy is the caucus - to the point of repeatedly advocating a legislated requirement that a caucus vote override the decisions made by the whole of a party's membership?
I ask only because he seems to have been replaced with a far more reasonable impostor.
By the majority-of-caucus standard set under Michael Chong's Reform Act (or the stronger forms suggested by Andrew Coyne among others), the decision of a majority of Wildrose Party MLAs to join up with Jim Prentice's PCs following a caucus vote should be seen as having been fully validated.
So why then is Coyne among the people rightly lambasting Danielle Smith and company for their move? Well, that has to do with the flaws in the original theory behind the Reform Act.
Elected representatives are (and should be) only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to determining the direction of any political party. And we're right to consider it illegitimate when those representatives make choices which run contrary to the underlying basis for their elected positions - even if a majority of their caucus-mates happen to agree.
What's more, an undue focus on a narrow set of representatives rather than the broader populations they represent can make it far too easy for politicians to bargain away their votes or seats, rationalizing the action on the theory that the trust reposed in a representative through the ballot box represents a mandate to use an elected position for personal gain. And that can happen just as easily on a group basis as an individual one.
Of course, the question of how to then check top-down power remains open. (Though it's worth noting that exactly one party has respected the ethical principle that a mandate to serve one party can't simply be passed to another in both law and practice.)
And it's doubtful that any legislated structure can do the job in the absence of a strong and active membership which can ensure that self-serving actions are met with an appropriate response in the next election cycle.
But at the very least, nobody should hold any illusion that handing special power to party caucuses will resolve the problem.
[Edit: fixed wording.]